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Daily Fantasy Sports Legality 2024: Understanding DFS Regulations in the US

Last Updated on 27.03.2024
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

Is Daily Fantasy Sports legal in the USA? This is a seemingly simple question but in actuality, there is an extensive web of connotations regarding American online gambling laws. Generally, DFS isn’t classified as gambling by federal legislation.

The UIGEA, which controls online gambling exempts Daily Fantasy Sports, citing that it is more of a skill-based activity than a punt. Some states, however, hold an opinion that DFS games rely more on luck than the players’ expertise. In this guide, I will share with you more details on DFS legal states and which sites you can play legally.

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Compare the best daily fantasy sports betting sites for 2024

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I have always thought of the law as a tricky jigsaw puzzle, with various pieces that don’t look like they belong together. For fantasy sports, a US Federal statute, UIEGA, defines sports wagering based on the aspects of chance and skill. A sports bettor is considered a risk taker whose success rests purely on luck. However, a DFS player has to consult their acquired skills.

Daily Fantasy Sports is legal in many US states chiefly because the outcome of the contest is based on statistical analysis. Proponents argue that the gameplay certainly requires knowledge of logic rather than chance. The game is likened to other games of skill such as chess. At the same time, DFS carries some attributes of chance. Operators have had to reimagine how they market their products to avoid controversy.

There are different opinions in different jurisdictions. Some states, including Texas and Arizona, have not clearly differentiated games of chance from games of skill. Therefore, the law here is riddled with grey areas. Furthermore, some aggressive operators have now introduced a 1-game model or fantasy vs. the house which makes their DFS offering more like general sports betting.

Gambling vs DFS

Traditional betting always involves risk. You need to deposit and stake real-world money for a chance to win. Daily Fantasy Sports, on the other hand sometimes offer players an opportunity to play in free tournaments without a cash prize.

Another distinct difference is that sports wagering typically comes with fixed odds. For example, before a football match, the odds are determined and remain the same until the match plays out. With DFS, the odds are only finalized when all the lineups have been accepted. The house takes a cut and then pays a percentage to the winner(s) depending on the outcome. Daily Fantasy Sports is legal in some jurisdictions based on these considerations.

Although not available across all 50 USA states, DFS is a nice alternative to the heavily regulated sports gambling. I took a personal liking to these top Daily Fantasy Sports legal sites, highlighting where you can play from. I also check out the exciting bonuses and unique contests on these platforms.

Underdog Fantasy – Number one DFS site all-round

Pros & Cons
  • Not available in more than 5 states
  • $100 welcome bonus
  • Offers Pick’em and draft games
  • Most competitive tournaments
  • Accepts more than 40 states
  • Great mobile apps
  • Not available in more than 5 states

I know that the brand name suggests inferiority. However, this New York-based website has become the cream of the crop, offering huge annual tournaments like Best Ball Mania with a prize pool of $15,000,000.

There are over 40 Underdog Fantasy legal states where you can play both Pick’em and draft contests. This includes Alabama, Massachusetts, and New York. As a new member, you can enjoy a 100% first deposit bonus of up to $100. You can also download an app for Apple or Android and get high speeds and simple navigation as you play on the go.

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DraftKings – Most established DFS operator in the US

Pros & Cons
  • Legal in 44 states
  • $500 DK dollars bonus
  • Covers 10+ leagues
  • Experienced operator
  • Trustworthy DFS site
  • Pick’em games somewhat limited

Is Daily Fantasy Sports legal in America? Thanks to influential operators like DraftKings, it is. Launched way back in 2009, the DraftKings empire is known for having played a key role in the rise of the DFS industry. Except for Idaho, Washington, Hawaii, and a few other states, the gaming outlet covers the entire country.

To hop onto the bandwagon, you can download the fantasy app on your smartphone or use your computer. The site offers all new customers a 20% bonus up to $500 in DK Dollars. You can play fantasy football, basketball, and more. The site also offers top contests including NFL Season-long games with up to $1 million in prize pools.

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FanDuel – Leading DFS website with easy navigation

Pros & Cons
  • Good navigation system
  • Play for free with friends
  • Offers free-entry tournaments
  • Withdraw with PayPal and credit cards
  • Well-established site
  • Relatively less intuitive UI

For a while, FanDuel and DraftKings dominated the fantasy sports world introducing America to a new concept of entertainment. Like DraftKings, FanDuel is only available where Daily Fantasy Sports is legal or not prohibited by law. The site offers secure payments and timely payouts with credit cards and PayPal.

Notably, the platform takes user experience seriously and, therefore presents a colorful and logical design for both its desktop version and mobile app. You can quickly draft your strongest NFL, MLB, or EPL team with a few clicks. And you have the option to play for free in tournaments like Gridiron Pick’em.

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ParlayPlay – The Best promotional offers for DFS players

Pros & Cons
  • No deposit bonus
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  • Wide range of leagues
  • Easy to use site
  • Limited customer support options

At ParlayPlay, you first get a $5 no deposit bonus when you open your account. Then, the site sweetens the deal by matching your initial deposit with up to $100. If that’s not so impressive, the platform also serves up the Share 4Cash referral promo where you can collect points and win prizes.

ParlayPlay is a rainbow platform thriving to suit various tastes and preferences. You can play NBA, NFL, and NHL with Pick’em and free2play contests. There are 44 Parlay Play legal states and only Washington, Idaho, Montana, Louisiana, Hawaii, and Nevada are ineligible. Nonetheless, there is no live chat for customer care.

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OwnersBox – New DFS website with unique game modes

Pros & Cons
  • Good customer service
  • Pays out in 30 minutes
  • 24-hour live chat
  • New and unique game modes
  • Free entry for sign-up bonus
  • Only legal in 36 states

Is Daily Fantasy Sports legal on OwnersBox? Yes, but another important aspect to consider is customer care. I was impressed by the highly responsive live chat customer care. Another great quality is that OwnersBox pays out just 30 minutes after the contest closes, unlike DraftKings which requires at least 24 hours.

With a $5 free entry sign-up bonus, you can play the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA leagues. On top of that, OwnersBox breaks the mold to bring you a unique game type known as Lighting Lineups. Here, you spin to get random lineups, and then you choose the best one. However, for now, OwnersBox is only available in 36 of the 50 US states.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) lays the framework for online gambling regulations in the country but exempts fantasy games. Nevertheless, specific states prohibit the game, defining it as gambling. So, where is Daily Fantasy Sports legal?

Daily Fantasy Sports legal states

American lawmakers hold varying opinions and standards. There is no specific framework to address DFS in the following states, but the laws recognize the activity as a skill-based game.

  • West Virginia
  • Kansas
  • Rhode Island

In the next jurisdictions, Daily Fantasy Sports is legal and specific regulations are in place. Operators have to get a license to hold contests.

  • Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • Colorado
  • Indiana

In states such as Mississippi players can also enjoy DFS games without fear of legal persecution.

States where DFS is illegal

As far as the federal government is involved, Daily Fantasy Sports is legal. Nevertheless, in Montana, Delaware, and Iowa, it isn’t. You can only run an in-person social DFS contest.

The legislation in this case clearly defines fantasy games as chance-based and therefore illegal. You may find a website that accepts players from your area but if you come from one of these states, DFS is illegal.

  • Hawaii
  • Nevada
  • Texas
  • Connecticut
  • Idaho

States with legal DFS + regulations

I have read many legal articles and learned that it is not really clear whether Daily Fantasy Sports is legal or not. But since federal laws generally separate DFS from gambling, operators simply set up shop where state laws won’t catch up with them.

However, some states have expressly legalized fantasy games. Virginia, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Colorado have specific rules regarding DFS. In Colorado, operators must be licensed unless they have less than 7,500 players, and the legal age for players is 18. Tennessee charges a 6% tax on operators.

Other jurisdictions, including California, have proposed bills but are yet to launch full-on regulations on daily fantasy. On a rather negative note, In Florida, House Bill 679 seeks to ban prop-style DFS and this would stop contests based on the points spread or score.

The table below summarizes the legal types of DFS in different states.

StateStandard DFSPick’em
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
D.C.
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Fantasy vs. the house

Traditionally, DFS is set up as a peer-to-peer competition, where you can show you face other players. In this scenario, the house hosts the competition and takes a cut of the prize pool. However, to make the industry more robust, operators such as Underdog Fantasy started introducing fantasy vs. the house games or fantasy parlays.

Playing in this format makes DFS more similar to conventional sports betting and thus creates grey areas in particular jurisdictions. Is Daily Fantasy Sports legal if you play against the house? It is in Alabama, Kansas, and a few other states. Nonetheless, some operators offer this product in Alaska and Illinois based on the ‘game of skill’ concept rather than on DFS law. Due to the adverse legislative stance there, I have noticed that many fantasy sports sites are moving away from Michigan.

DFS: Where to play without worry

Is Daily Fantasy Sports legal? Yes. There are dozens of decent sites offering daily fantasy contests but legality will depend on where you are physically located. Each state has varying laws depending on whether they define DFS as chance-based or a skill game.

Some states, Idaho is one of them, have completely outlawed DFS despite the federal government’s positive position on the matter. Colorado fully legalized DFS and introduced specific regulations, and here, you can play as long as you adhere to the laws. Underdog and FanDuel are legal, and you can play from 44 DraftKings legal states.

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18+ in most eligible states, but age varies by jurisdiction. Eligibility restrictions apply.

📜 What is the UIGEA?

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) is a federal statute that makes it illegal for US citizens to transfer funds to play on an unlicensed gambling site. This law exempts DFS as it does not exhibit the same aspects of chance as conventional sports wagering. This means Daily Fantasy Sports is legal in 44 states.

🏈 How is DFS different from traditional sports betting?

Traditional sports betting is thought to be mostly about chance while DFS is more about skill. Additionally, sports bets come with fixed odds while the payout for fantasy sports is only decided when all the stakes have been accepted. Unlike sports wagering, DFS is sometimes free to play.

The issue of Daily Fantasy Sports legal states is marked by lots of grey areas. Fantasy contests are offered in more than 44 states. However, in many states, DFS is neither legal nor illegal. Hawaii and five other states have completely outlawed daily fantasy products from their jurisdictions.

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Our Team
Emily CarterJackson T. PierceMike GoodpasterJP ZhangBrendan Heffernan
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Emily Carter
Gambling Editor
Jackson T. Pierce
Gambling & DFS Editor
Mike Goodpaster
Mike Goodpaster
Chief Editor Betting
JP Zhang
JP Zhang
Founder
Brendan Heffernan
Editor
Eric Winkler
Editor
Ian Johnson
Editor

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